One of the most awe-inspiring days of my trip to Brazil earlier this year was the day I spent on a farm. My friend Rodrigo’s family owns a farm in Jaraguá with sheep, cows, chickens and other animals. It has large open fields for the animals, houses for the family and workers, and a dense rainforest with a river running through it.
When we arrived at the farm, Rodrigo introduced me to a few of the workers as he gathered supplies: a plastic bag with a net inside, a machete, a beer, water and some miscellaneous items. At this point, I wan’t sure what these supplies were for. Based on the little Portuguese I picked up during the trip, it sounded as if we were going fishing with a net. I didn’t ask what we were going to do because I figured anything we could do on a Brazilian farm would be interesting simply because I was somewhere new…
On the walk to the forest, we had to move parts of the wire fence to go from one area to the other. These fences are mainly for keeping the animals in their areas, so they don’t wander too far and get lost in the forest or injured by other animals. The cows were skinny, most of them were milk cows. I later learned that Jaraguá is a big exporter of cow milk, so this made sense. At the end of the day, Rodrigo pointed out a slaughter house on the edge of the farm, isolated from the fields where the animals roamed freely.
While walking through the forest, we didn’t speak much. I was fine with that because I was taking in my surroundings, amazed at how lucky I was to experience such a wondrous place. Plus, I was busy dodging tree branches and trying not to trip over roots and rocks along the ground.
Meanwhile, Rodrigo would stop at a few trees here and there, as if he was inspecting them for something. Eventually he found a tree that I figured met his standards because he motioned for me to stop. Then, he took the machete and chopped a branch off as if it was a slice of cake. Even if he hadn’t told me to stop, I was so mind-blown by that point, that all I wanted to do was stay there and witness more cool things happen…
I got what I hoped for sooner than I thought. After chopping the branch off, Rodrigo stuck it in the ground and sharpened the end with short, quick cuts of the machete. And I stood there in shock once again, thinking “well, now I know why he brought the machete!”
Then he led me down to the river. I used the branch he just cut as a walking stick because the hill was muddy and slippery. Rodrigo had better balance than I did because he simply strolled down the hill ahead of me. Then he stripped down to his underwear and walked into the water with that branch and the net we gathered earlier.
He waded through the brown water, looking for a good spot to set the net. I held one end of the net until it was stretched out all the way. He kept looking back and shaking his head. After the net was stretched, I dropped it into the water so Rodrigo could place it. Eventually, he settled for a spot and stuck the branch along the edge of the river to hold the net in place. He wasn’t hopeful that the net would catch any fish, so we were not surprised when we came back to an empty net a few hours later.
While he was in the water, I climbed onto a fallen log that stretched a few feet out over the water. Rodrigo asked if I wanted to swim in the water, but I was busy savoring the sights and sounds of nature. Waterbugs and tiny fish swam below me; ants and small beetles crawled around me; and spiders spun webs while birds chirped on the tree branches swaying in the breeze above me.
Rodrigo said the water is clear and more beautiful in the dry season. We were there during the rainy season, summertime in the southern hemisphere. But when I’m in a new environment, surrounded by so many marvelous sights, it’s difficult to let murky water bring me down.
Also, witnessing how they fish (even without catching anything) on that farm has made me even less impressed by those fishing photos typical in the US… You know those photos where the kid or adult, holds their catch in one hand and a fishing rod in the other? Like the “grip and grin” or “execution at dawn,” they serve the purpose of commemorating accomplishments, but lack originality.
After fishing, we walked back to the farmhouse. I lost count of how many spider webs I walked into, but at one point I got stung by a wasp! I had never been stung by a bee or anything before, so I was more confused than anything. I thought it would hurt more. I felt something on my left upper arm and lifted my arm to see it. I then watched as the shiny black bug with its yellow sac dug into my skin. I felt a sharp pain, like getting pricked by a needle, and let out a quick gasp.
Instinctively, I grabbed the wasp’s body, pulled it out of my arm and threw it away from me. My arm started bleeding and I noticed a yellow liquid mixing with my blood, dulling the red color. I assumed that was some sort of wasp venom.
I then understood why they call it a “sting” because I felt a stinging feeling on my arm right after. I think I scared it when I moved my arm to see what it was, causing it to sting me. Apparently, wasp stings do not cause bleeding, so I assume I caused that when I yanked it off.
I was quite exhausted and felt dehydrated walking back in the sun after the shaded forest. We were almost back to the farmhouse, but Rodrigo found a horse for me to ride that final stretch. It was only for a few minutes, but I was grateful that the kind horse carried me. Back at the house, the horse drank water in the shade of a tree, while I sprawled on the couch beside a fan indoors.
I soon felt refreshed and enjoyed fresh farm food for lunch. I filled my plate with meats, fish, vegetables, and lots of fatty foods. By this point of my trip, I had tasted many new Brazilian foods, but none fresh on a farm like this!
While eating lunch, I heard a ruffling sound nearby. I looked over and spotted a small bird moving oddly around in a potted plant. I didn’t get a good look at the bird because she ran off a few seconds after I looked over. I asked what that bird’s scuffle was about and Rodrigo motioned for me to come see.
My jaw dropped when I saw four small eggs in the plant pot, right where the bird, which I then realized must have been a hen, sat a moment before. My mind didn’t quickly grasp the fact that the hen popped those eggs out right in front of me only a few seconds before. When I held one in my hand, I felt a warmth from the smooth egg that indicated they were fresh.
A lot of the farm birds roamed freely around the house. I enjoyed watching them get fed, laughing as they simultaneously ran toward the pile of feed tossed toward them. The few cats around the house were more vicious, fighting each other and leaving the losers to watch as the strongest cat ate all the food scraps.
After my farm day, I spent one more day in Brazil, where we drove up a mountain in Jaraguá for breathtaking views. Then I flew to Peru, where I had different, yet interesting experiences…
Up next: hiking in Peru, cave crawling in Budapest, pandemic life and recent events in NYC